Autumn Trees - The Maple, 1924 by Georgia O'Keeffe

Autumn Trees - The Maple (1924), painted with an unusual palette of cool blue-grays and liver reds similar to those of Chestnut Tree - Red, seems ultimately inspired by a different concern. Instead of being a memorial portrait, the painting provides a pretext for the exploration of a complex pattern, as the sinuous gray limbs of the maple taper into ambiguous planes of color. The painting is strikingly similar to the earlier tree designs of the Dutch modernist Piet Mondrian.

The artful pattern of intersecting arcs across the flat plane of O'Keeffe's canvas parallels that of Mondrian's apple trees of about 1911; others of his early trees share her picture's range of reds and blues. Tantalizing though the similarities might be, any direct tie to the Dutch works is only speculative, as O'Keeffe had not traveled to Europe, and Mondrian's early work remained relatively unfamiliar in this country at that date. A more likely source of inspiration was available closer to home. However, in the photographic studies by Stieglitz. Whatever their sources, the painted trees of O'Keeffe present distinctive solutions to the pictorial problems posed by the subject.